THE CENTRAL ROLE OF LANGUAGE IN HUMAN SOCIETY
The use of language as the primary means of communication is one of the defining characteristics of the human species. Many animal species also use signs of various types to communicate or convey information .
But these sign systems are very simple and inflexible. They are very far removed from the complexity and versatility and creativity that goes with human or natural languages. The primary position of language (especially speech) in the life of mankind is highlighted by the expression 'talking animal' that is sometimes used to describe humans.
This central role of communication through natural language in human social life is made possible by the fact that all human individuals are able to handle or operate the language (or languages) of their societies.
This is so obvious that we simply take it for granted. But it is useful to note that there is an important principle here. Nearly everyone in any society is a competent and effective language user. This applies to all normal human beings. Only that tiny proportion of the population of any country with major physiological handicaps (brain damage, mental retardation. deafness and dumbness) remain unable to use language.
The learning of the mother tongue or first language (L1) is a slow and long drawn-out process. It is difficult to say when a person has fully mastered his/her L1 and so has finished learning it. Further many people learn more than one language. This is especially true of multilingual societies like ours; and with modern communication breaking down national/linguistic boundaries, learning foreign languages is also becoming increasingly common.
These additional languages are learned slowly (even if there is a crash course) and like the L1, complete mastery is never attained. Thus it is possible to say that for practical purposes, everyone is a language learner